Tuesday, 29 March 2016

DIY...Terracotta Pots and Recycled Bottles

I love creative activities; customising terracotta pots, jam jars, wine bottles etc... I mostly do my DIY activities when I have a little time, such as on a rainy Sunday. This leads me to introduce you to a very nice DIY store, Brico Dancet in Geneva. You can find blank canvasses, tissue paper, masking tape, small wooden alphabet letters, and DIY books.... in short, a wide range of articles for your decorating activities. Every week they offer a 25% discount on a range of products, displayed on their web site.

Brico Dancet
Rue Dancet 17
Planpalais, Geneve
Closed Monday mornings and at lunch time.

Recycled jam jars and wine bottles
11cm terracotta pots
Martec Blancol (transparent glue for DIY use)
Silk ribbons, lace, tulle...
Tissue paper
Pébéo matt picture varnish spray
Flat Pébéo brushes for acrylic and decorative painting
Pébéo acrylic paint (matt colours for terracotta, wood, plaster and metal, dry to the touch in 30 minutes, completely dry and waterproof in 24 hours).
I used the following colours: antique blue no.27, ash brown no.70, white no.41, antique pink no.26, grey no.54, garnet red no.57, blueberry no.106.

DIY - decorating terracotta pots
There is nothing complicated about this small DIY task that should only take a few minutes, depending on the complexity of the decoration you chose, obviously.
I painted these small pots with acrylic paint; I used 2 layers of dark coloured paint to cover them properly. For lighter coloured paint, 3 layers are needed.
Once the paint is dry, I sprayed a thin layer of matt varnish to make sure to protect the paint. Then, I decorated my pots with bands of hessian on which I glued lace, tulle and jewellery. I left them to dry and, half an hour later, the job was done.

DIY - decorating recycled wine bottles & jam jars
First, you need to clean the bottles and jars and then sterilise them. Once dry, you can start decorating as you wish.
For mine, I cut bands of hessian to which I glued jewellery and lace. Once dry, I put glue on the back of the hessian and stuck it to the bottle or jam jar. I left it to dry and, half an hour later, the job was done. Easy wasn't it?

Tip: Do not hesitate to use ribbons of different patterns, widths and colours to make the objects attractive.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Little Details for Easter

It's nearly Easter! For those who like celebrating such festivals as much as I do, it's time to start thinking about ideas to decorate the home and the table for Sunday lunch.

In the spring, I love the flowers in the fields, and I think we can always bring a bit of the countryside into the house!

Here you can see some ideas to beautify the house to welcome family and friends. The home decoration shop Depot, which opened recently, is a good option.

Alternatively, if you love DIY, here is an easy gift idea to offer to your loved ones at lunch on Sunday.... Chocolate eggs remain the best present that they can receive at this time.

Cheers!! A toast to friends and to others to celebrate Easter and spring…Why not? This gorgeous Swiss sparkling wine should do the trick.

Happy Easter!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Mascot cake

I made this two-layer cake for a dinner with friends this weekend and all of them loved it. This is a family recipe that mum often made for special occasions. It is a cake that beautifies a festive table. Perhaps it would be nice for Easter!? This amazing cake melts in the mouth and its icing encourages gluttony... it is heaven for your taste buds.

7 eggs (separate the yolks from the whites)
7 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of potato starch flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 vanilla pod

Buttercream Icing
Salted butter, softened (200g)
Icing sugar (200g)
6 teaspoons of lemon juice
Tapered almonds (I used grated coconut powder)

1. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until frothy. Add the vanilla seeds, beating constantly.
2. Gradually add the sifted potato starch flour and the baking powder, stirring constantly to ensure thorough blending.
3. Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. Fold gently but thoroughly into the egg yolk mixture.
4. Line a rectangular mould with greaseproof paper. Bake in a moderate oven (175 degrees) until the cake springs back when touched gently with fingers (20 minutes).
5. Leave to cool thoroughly before removing the cake from the mould. Once cold, cut the cake in two to make square halves.

Buttercream icing
Beat the softened butter with the icing sugar and add the lemon juice.

Put a little icing between the two halves. Cover the cake with the remaining buttercream icing. Sprinkle with grated coconut powder (or sprinkle with tapered almonds). Decorate to your taste.

Serves 6

Tips: Alternatively, you can decorate with canned fruit. (cherries, apricots, pears, pineapple). For a bigger cake just double the ingredients.

Friday, 18 March 2016

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates (1976)

The Easter Parade tells the story of two sisters. Sarah and Emily Grimes. We first come to know them as children, with newly divorced parents and, over the next forty years, we follow the paths that make them very different women, as they both struggle to overcome their difficult family past.
Sarah is stable and stalwart, settling into an unhappy marriage on Long Island and ultimately succumbing to her silent despair. Emily stays in New York; she is precocious and independent, struggling with one unsatisfactory love affair after another. She goes through several uninteresting jobs, fails in her career and loses herself in alcohol.

Author: Richard Yates was born on February 3, 1926 in New York. Yates came from an unstable home. His parents divorced when he was three and much of his childhood was spent in many different towns and homes. Yates first became a journalist. His career as a novelist began in 1961 with the publication of the widely acclaimed "Revolutionary Road." Yates is known for his exploration of mid-20th century life. He died in 1992.

My thoughts: I think Yates is an extraordinary writer; he has a sharp eye and no mercy. This story is moving and written with great elegance. I read it in Portuguese translation in 2012. This is the second of Yates’s books I have read.  The other one is “Eleven Kinds of Loneliness”, a masterpiece, which I will soon review.  But for now, what made me wanted to read “The Easter Parade” was the chemistry I felt while reading its first page.  I very quickly felt intrigued by the plot.  The opening line of the novel aroused my curiosity: “Neither of the Grimes sisters would have a happy life and, looking back, it always seemed that the trouble began with their parents` divorce”.  I definitely wanted to learn more about their mother, an extravagant lady nicknamed “Pookie”, and I remember thinking “Oh my Lord it’s going to be fun discovering all these characters and the way they move through life”. I was right to follow my intuition as I simply couldn’t put the book down once I had started.
I really recommend that you discover this great author, who, by the way, used to write speeches for Senator Robert Kennedy. If you do not fancy reading his book but you like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, you can always see Revolutionary Road, a film based on Yates’s novel.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Tormenta Negra

Today I want to share the recipe for a Tormenta Negra cocktail with you. I discovered it on the bottle of Bacardi Carta Negra black rum that sweetheart bought. We tried it and loved it. I have also made it for my dear friend E. when she came to my home the other day, we had two glasses each.

These are her own words: “This is a sparking, fresh cocktail, I feel like I'm still in Phuket”. It is indeed a refreshing cocktail, perfect to celebrate the upcoming spring. It will certainly please my lady readers. By the way, what a sexy and mysterious name: Tormenta Negra (Black Storm)! Salud!!

Ingredients per person
Juice of 1/2 lime (15 ml)
1/2 lime to garnish
50ml Bacardi Carta Negra black rum (which consists of a blend of aged rums)
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
100ml ginger beer
Lots of ice

Prepare directly in a tumbler or a highball glass. Squeeze in the lime juice and add the rum, bitters and ginger beer, fill with ice, then stir. Garnish with the lime.

Note: You can replace the ginger beer with the more readily available Schweppes ginger ale, as we did. Ginger beer is a soft fermented drink and contains no alcohol. In comparison to ginger ale, ginger beer is more robust in flavour with a spicy quality.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Remembering Djerba... a thalassotherapy destination

If you want to enjoy thalassotherapy in a warm and scenic country, that is not too far away and not exorbitant, I would recommend delightful Djerba. It is a beautiful small island in the south of Tunisia, 2 hours from Geneva. Known as the Island of Dreams, it is a good place for people who are looking for calm and tranquillity. It has a nice beach and is heaven for thalassotherapy. Most of the residents are equally fluent in French and Arabic.

After seeing the pictures of my last vacation out there (a few years ago), my entourage fell in love with Djerba. I thought... hmmmm... maybe it's also going to please my dear readers.

The dream hotel where I have always stayed, the Radisson Blu Palace Resort & Thalasso Djerba, is simply splendid: beautiful architecture, right at the water’s edge, with a stunning lush garden and an interior patio, friendly staff and a great quality of service. It is half an hour away from the airport, with a minibus service to take you to and from the hotel.

This luxury and family-friendly hotel, with an All-Inclusive option, has a nice white sandy beach only a few steps away. The Athénée Thalasso & Spa is where you can indulge in pampering treatments, including cryotherapy, seaweed wraps, massages, passotherapy, etc…

The meals or, I should say, feasts were composed of dozens of dishes. We didn't know what to choose, there was so much and all the dishes were really succulent. They often organised an Arabic theme night which was a good opportunity to taste the famous national dish, couscous, prepared in hundreds of different ways from sweet to very hot.

During my stay, my routine was to swim lengths of the beach, I also used to go for long walks along the beach.... and I ended the afternoon in the 1,100-square-meter outdoor pool, with a bar area and great music.

Sometimes I went for a horse ride in the area (you can rent horses on the beach). I had thalasso treatments almost every day, each time a different one. I was advised by a Tunisian friend to use an excellent and affordable institute outside because I thought the hotel thalasso was a bit pricey...

On my last visit I occupied a Deluxe Sea View Room, a big bedroom of about 42 m2, decorated in warm colours with a gorgeous and spacious bathroom.

Sometimes I took a ride to the market in Midoun. A taxi took us for the 7 km trip for a modest amount.... Here the taxi drives wait for the customers for the return journey and they are very nice, like all the Tunisians I met. They are kind and warm people; this is the image I have kept of them. We saw many veiled women, with either traditional costumes or bright costumes with very pretty colours and patterns.

During my holidays I went on several excursions to give me an insight into the culture of the island of Djerba. Here are some places and villages on the island.

Djerba's small capital, Houmt Souk (9.5 km from Midoun) is the main town on the island. It is the largest city and one of the most beautiful places with an abundance of cafes and terraces and shops selling rugs, souvenirs and crafts. The Houmt Souq Harbour is well worth a visit.

Tunisian carpet weaving workshops in Houmt Souk... here you can watch the skill of the ladies as they weave silk carpets.

Guellala Pottery Museum & Village (28Km de Midoun).  A lovely museum housed in a fine example of Djerba architecture which traces the rich history of pottery making in this village which dates back to the Roman times.

There are said to be some 450 potters in this tiny village, the centre for exquisite handmade ceramics. I adored the visit to one of their workshops.

The El Ghriba Synagogue (10.9 km from Midoun) is the oldest one in the world. In the interior of the island amid run down colonial properties, there survives one of the last Jewish communities in North Africa, with its Synagogue El Ghriba, Erriadh.

Borj El K'bir Fort (15 km from Midoun) is a fort that was built for defence purposes during the 15th century. Once we had climbed to the top of the fort we were rewarded with panoramic views.

Finally, for a bit of a thrill, if you are fascinated by strange creatures, you can visit the Crocodiles Farm. It is constructed like a traditional village you would find on the Nile River and it is inhabited by crocodiles that, fully grown can be as long as 5 - 6 metres!  I didn't visit it because I'm terrified of these creatures.

I hope you enjoyed this suggested holiday destination.

Note: Make sure you verify the latest security information prior to reserving.

Radisson Blu Palace Resort & Thalasso Djerba Website: